So, it turns out that they let just anyone design and print PCBs with a minimum of cost and absolutely no training whatsoever! Hooray amateurism?
The latest batches of PCBs just came in for the Volunt project (a small-scale portable version of Helix). These are the touch controller breakout boards that fit inside the rods and communicate with a series of touch sensors and relay the information via I2C to the microcontroller in the base.
I designed these boards with Fritzing, and had them made by BatchPCB (green), and OSH Park (purple). I have another batch of boards coming for Helix and Volunt from iTead in China, but who knows when they’ll actually arrive.
If you look closely, you can see that the touch boards are populated almost entirely with surface mount components. I did those with this high-tech reflow rig.
Yes, that’s a super-cheap hot plate. I populate the boards with solder paste and the components and set the boards on that little metal plate. Then, I set the dial to the W in LOW, watch it until everything reflows, and pull it off the heat.
If you set the temperature too high, you get this fabulous thing happening.
Amazingly, this board still works!
There are much fancier DIY rigs with thermocouples, but I’m incredibly lazy and didn’t bother. This seems to work for my level of detail, and I have yet to render a board unworkable.
Finally, while I’m showing off, here’s my glorious and honorable work space. Honestly, I’m not un-proud of my space frugality. Everything fits, and nothing has caught fire… yet.